Oversight Board Selects a Case Involving a Cartoon Depicting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

UPDATED

JAN 23, 2023

Today, the Oversight Board selected a case appealed by a Facebook user involving a cartoon shared on a public group of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The image shows Ayatollah Khamenei’s beard forming into a fist grasping a woman in a hijab and is accompanied by a caption that uses the phrase “death to” the government and its leader Khamenei.

Upon initial review, Meta took down this content for violating our policy on Violence and Incitement, as laid out in the Facebook Community Standards. However, upon additional review we decided that although the post violates our policy on Violence and Incitement, the newsworthiness allowance applies. Meta subsequently reinstated the content.

We will implement the board’s decision once it has finished deliberating, and we will update this post accordingly. Please see the board’s website for the decision when they issue it.

Case decision

We welcome the Oversight Board’s decision today on this case. The board overturned Meta’s original decision to remove the content from the platform for violating our Violence and Incitement Policy, deeming the newsworthiness allowance unnecessary. Meta previously reinstated this content so no further action will be taken on it.

In accordance with the bylaws, we will also initiate a review of identical content with parallel context. If we determine that we have the technical and operational capacity to take action on that content as well, we will do so promptly. For more information, please see our Newsroom post about how we implement the board’s decisions.

After conducting a review of the recommendations provided by the board in addition to their decision, we will update this page.

Recommendations

We appreciate the Oversight Board’s input on this case and the nuanced issue of moderating content that uses the phrase “marg bar Khamenei” (Death to Khamenei). While we’ve always understood that calls for death of heads of state could be rhetorical in certain contexts, given our limited ability to know someone’s intent, it’s difficult for companies like ours to determine when and where to allow these types of statements on our platforms. We accept the Board’s guidance that in Iran this slogan is an integral part of political speech during the ongoing protests, and that it alone is unlikely to pose risk of physical harm.

That’s why, effective today, we are implementing the Board’s recommendation to allow the phrase “marg bar Khamenei” in the context of the ongoing protests in Iran.

According to the Oversight Board’s bylaws, Meta has 60 days to respond to the board’s recommendations. Recognizing the ongoing protests in Iran and the importance of speech in this context, we are responding to this recommendation ahead of the usual 60 day response deadline in order to provide transparency about the changes we are implementing.

Our responses to the board’s remaining recommendations are due March 10, 2023. We will provide detailed responses to the recommendations at that time.